The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra has appointed LA Opera Music Director James Conlon as the BSO’s artistic advisor, beginning in September 2021, the orchestra group announced Tuesday. Photo courtesy of LA Opera.

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra has appointed LA Opera Music Director James Conlon as the BSO’s artistic advisor, beginning in September 2021, the orchestra group announced today.

Conlon, who has served as the music director for the LA Opera since 2006, will join the BSO in the 2021-22 season.

The BSO announced in February that Music Director Marin Alsop will step down from her position after 14 years of leading the orchestra.

Alsop, the first woman to lead a major orchestra in the United States, will serve as Music Director Laureate and OrchKids Founder, leading three concert weeks per season through the 2025-26 season.

The BSO said Conlon is not a candidate in the BSO’s search for its next music director.

In the artistic advisor role, Conlon will lead three concert weeks per year in each of the 2021-22, 2022-23, and 2023-24 seasons. He will also help fill vacancies and attract musicians as part of the BSO’s recent five-year collective bargaining agreement.

The BSO’s Artistic Advisory Committee, which is made up of musicians elected by their peers, and the BSO’s management recommended Conlon to fill the artistic advisor position.

Conlon served as music director of the Cincinnati May Festival for 37 years, one of the longest tenures of any director of an American classical music institution, and is now the festival’s Conductor Laureate. He has also conducted and held other positions with the RAI National Symphony Orchestra; the Ravinia Festival; the Paris Opera; the City of Cologne, Germany; the Rotterdam Philharmonic; the Metropolitan Opera; Teatro alla Scala; Wiener Staatsoper; Mariinsky Theatre; and Royal Opera at Covent Garden.

Conlon said he was looking forward to beginning his work with the BSO next fall. He also praised Alsop for her contributions to the orchestra.

“The BSO’s reputation as one of America’s great symphony orchestras, as well as a leader in imaginative and relevant programming, is well known. That is in large measure thanks to Marin Alsop, whom I have known for many decades, and I am particularly enthusiastic to work together with her in order to assure the succession process for the orchestra’s future,” Conlon said in a statement. “I look forward to collaborating with the musicians, management, artistic leadership team, and the entire BSO community at this pivotal time in our history.”

The BSO will begin a multi-year international search for a music director. In the meantime, the orchestra will be led by “superb conductors from around the world” starting in the 2021-22 season, BSO officials said.

BSO President & CEO Peter Kjome said Conlon’s appointment will allow the orchestra the time it needs to conduct a thorough search for its next music director.

“The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra is one of the most important orchestras in the country,” Kjome said in a statement. “Marin Alsop expanded the BSO’s influence and visibility nationally and internationally, and we continue to make remarkable progress as an organization. The process of identifying a leader who is not only an extraordinary musician, but also a passionate advocate of the Orchestra’s vital role in the community, will take time. The appointment of James Conlon as Artistic Advisor allows that time, and it is a wonderful testament to those in Baltimore, Maryland, and beyond that the BSO’s positive momentum continues.”

The BSO said Associate Conductor Nicholas Hersh extended his tenure to help lead the orchestra’s digital series, BSO Sessions.

Principal Pops Conductor Jack Everly will also continue leading “a high-profile season of beloved classics and contemporary pops performances,” BSO officials said.

Meanwhile, Assistant Conductor Jonathan Rush and Artistic Partner Wordsmith will be involved in the direction and collaborations of the BSO’s subscription concerts and the orchestra’s education and community engagement initiatives.

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Marcus Dieterle

Marcus Dieterle is the managing editor of Baltimore Fishbowl. He returned to Baltimore in 2020 after working as the deputy editor of the Cecil Whig newspaper in Elkton, Md. He can be reached at